Late Summer Northwoods Fishing

Last weekend Matt and I, along with his brother and our friend Brian, packed ourselves and all our gear into one car (which was a feat of strength let me tell you) and drove north into Wisconsin. We met our friend Charles in Park Falls and continued to drive deep into the Chequamegon National Forest where we pitched camp. I had not spent much time in Chequamegon, and was excited to find that it is a beautiful, wild, and expansive forest. We didn’t see any elk, bear hunters and their dogs were abundant, and we spooked a few grouse and woodcock while driving around.

Charles steered us towards good water but the weather and conditions, while quite enjoyable otherwise, were less than ideal for the fishing. The skies were bluebird and with the bright sun the air warmed quickly early and the days remained hot until the sun finally fell below the treetops. Without any recent precipitation the low late summer flows remained low and what earlier in the season had been comfortable lies for big fish were now skinny and barren. Charles talked about the tough fishing during the transition between late summer and early fall, and I think we nailed it. We rolled a few muskies, Brian was bit off by a very big one, but aside from that fish the takes were half-hearted and they wouldn’t come back for a second look.

We caught a bunch of northerns, a couple of baby muskies, and a few smallies. The beats we waded were tough, especially in the hot sun, and the sight of our campsite was welcome after a long day on the water. On these trips, the camping itself can be as enjoyable as the fishing. Campfire dinners and breakfasts always seem to taste a little better with the smoke and ash flavoring the food, telling stories and recounting the day always bring some hearty laughs, and it feels like you could sleep for days during the cool nights.

Last week, fall seemed to swoop in overnight, but I am still waiting for the rains that typically accompany the change of seasons. Rain can be a harbinger of good fishing, and I am planning on making at few more trips up north this season. Dreary rain and cold may be uncomfortable, but laying into an angry, yard long fish will quickly make you forget that just moments earlier you were unable to feel your hands and feet.

Wisconsin Musky

Before my brother went back to school he shot up north to spend a week with our friend Charles Weary chasing musky in the northwoods of Wisconsin. While Charles grew up fishing the lakes up there for the toothy predators, recently he has adopted an approach us trout bums can appreciate: walking and wading. The two of them ran around that week hopping spots, making casts, and catching fish. As I can personally attest to, it is a heart racing, if not heart stopping, way to catch muskies. Sometimes the action culminates right at your feet, and when that happens, try not to drop your rod in the water and run screaming for the banks. So even if you don’t have a boat, as Charles says, the only thing stopping you from catching a musky are your own legs.

Small water, big fish

Who was hungry?

The Weary Wink strikes again

Look right Zoolander

Upper Peninsula

My wife Anne and I decided to take a quick trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this past weekend. We threw the kayaks up on top of the car and headed north to see what we could find to explore. I had spent some time in the UP when I was younger so I was excited to be able to fish some of the areas that I swam and played around in as a kid. The memories of watching trout pointlessly try and jump up a 50 foot waterfall is both entertaining and gets my fishing nerves twitching. With backpacks, tents, and kayaks in tow we were ready to play.

We arrived late on Friday night and had clear skies and a beautiful campsite view of the stars. Watching shooting stars and satellites makes your neck get a bit stiff, but for me it is one of the reasons I go up north so often. It was warm and humid on Saturday morning as we headed on our short hike to a waterfall. Off in the distance we could hear rolling thunder but on the stream there were trout rising and taking terrestrials. I got a fish on my first cast and had Anne climb down the rocks and make a few casts. She was rewarded with her first ever trout species, a handsome brown trout. Congratulations! Anne says the next one will be on a fly rod.

The thunder kept getting closer and closer and quickly it started to rain, and rain hard. With booming thunder and lightning directly above our heads we hiked a mile back to the park for some shelter in a downpour the entire way. It ended up being one of the highlights of the trip although at the time we were a bit spooked. The camera didn’t quite fair as well, it got soaked, but I got a picture of Anne’s first trout, worth it for me.

The rest of the trip was great but all the rain ended up blowing out the river and turning it into chocolate milk (something driftless area fisherman are quite familiar with). It was tough but I fished a bit more and found this baby Muskie and one other nice Smallmouth bass. Anne found a couple of baby steelhead to add to her now running total. Hopefully these muskie start getting a bit bigger for the Fall.

Summer Heat

Knowing that it would be hot last weekend, my boy Johnny and I decided to head north. We shot up to Boulder Junction, WI after work and found that the weather up there was just as sweltering. We were on the water at sunup, and off the water after sundown with a three hour nap somewhere in between. The fishing was tough and we had to work for the fish we landed. We had a great time regardless, and next time, at least we will know where not to fish.

Muskies in the Northwoods

Last weekend, Matt and I accepted a generous invitation from our friend Charles Weary to join him at his place up in Park Falls, WI. Having both spent a lot of time during our formative years and since in northern Wisconsin, we could hardly turn down an opportunity to get back up there.

Charles moved up north earlier this year to dedicate himself (assuming he could be more dedicated), to the pursuit of the famed northwoods predator, the Muskellunge. While Charles has been chasing them his whole life, Matt and I are late to the game and jumped at the chance to spend some time on the water to learn more about this spectral fish.

And learn we did. Charles took us to water running and still, tannic and clear, and we were fortunate enough (and guided well enough) to catch fish almost every place we wet a line: smallies, northerns, and a few muskies. The weather was hot and muggy and we covered a lot of water going to bed at night exhausted but exhilarated. I love being in the northwoods and felt like I knew it well but this experience showed me that I have only scratched the surface. The amount and variety of water up there is virtually limitless, and if you are willing to put in the time and hard work, you will be rewarded.

Little fish, big tail, bigger appetite and the disappearing fly trick

You ain’t cool unless you make a funny face

A musky is a musky is a musky

This Weary Wink lost an eye but won the battle

Persistence paid off

A Fish Story From Pennsylvania…

Many people fly fish as a hobby, or as a tool to relax after a long week of work. Many consider it a “leisurely pastime”, and an excuse to get out of the house for a couple hours. My co-worker Jake and I fly fish because it is our way of life. We eat, breathe, sleep, and shit fly fishing. It’s how we make a living and how we define ourselves. So waking up at 5:30am on a Thursday to float the Schuylkil River before work is nothing unusual, it’s actually our weekly ritual.

Jake and I both love fly fishing for many of the same reasons, yet we still have very different views of the sport in some regards. Lately, Jake’s been dialing in his Musky flies and preparing for the possibility of hooking one. I on the other hand, have been focusing on sight fishing for Carp and trying to figure out ways to catch “the poor man’s bonefish.” Fortunately, our recent obsessions within fly fishing still allow us to fish the same water.

This morning, Jake rowed the boat patiently as I stood in the front searching for tailing Carp. We found many, but getting these wary bottom feeders to fall for a fly is a whole different story. After about an hour and a half of refusals, Jake jumped in the front totting his 8 wt. with an over sized Meal Ticket tied to the end of his steel leader. He began to methodically pound the banks hoping for that one shot at an elusive Musky. I positioned the boat just far enough off the bank to not spook any possible takers, but close enough where Jake could make a 40 to 50 foot cast into his target area. We worked our first piece of water through and through with no takers. As we rowed to the opposite bank, Jake wanted me to put him in tight to the dock just down river of us. As he threw his set up cast just 15 feet off the boat, a massive fish bum rushed his fly, inhaling it right in front of us. Jake was tight to a 3 foot Musky. We both could not believe what had just happened! Jake battled the beast for a good 10 minutes before we beached the raft and landed what was probably a 35+ inch Musky. Many photos were taken and the fish was released unharmed. A fish like this will not be forgotten anytime soon. These times are one of the many reasons why Jake and I fly fish and why it is so addicting. Enjoy the photos…

Enjoying some early morning coffee and the view

Throwing a little double haul to some mudding Carp

Anticipating his first cast

Jake, searching for a toothy critter

I think Jake’s face says it all

Battling the beast